Saturday, Feb 16 2019 | Time 16:44 Hrs(IST)
image
  • EJAC protests in Srinagar against attack on Kashmiris in Jammu
  • MHA issues advisory to all states to ensure safety & security of people
  • All party meet says country stands with forces in fighting terror, Home Min says Govt will take war against Pak to its logical conclusion
  • POCSO Court orders CBI to probe role of Nitish in Muzaffarpur based shelter home case
  • Russia recorded four ceasefire violations in Syria over past 24 hours - Russian Military
  • No policy to regularise services of PAT & PTA appointees : Minister
  • Around 15,791 teachers in state schools still irregulars : Minister
  • HP Assy clears three Bills, Sanskrit becomes second official language
  • Pulwama attack: Last rites of martyr Pankaj Tripathi performed with full state honours in UP
  • Tarigami condemns Pulwama attack, says dialogue only option
  • Clinching manifesto vows is primary issue: MP CM
  • Business activities comes to halt in civil lines
  • Congress leader demands dismissal, sedition case against Sidhu
  • Money laundering: Vadra's interim bail extended till Mar 2
Features Share

Uganda: 'Why I broke the law to undergo FGM aged 26'

Uganda: 'Why I broke the law to undergo FGM aged 26'

Kampala, Feb 6 (UNI) Sylvia Yeko decided to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) three weeks ago at the age of 26 -- even though the practice, which used to be performed on teenage girls, was outlawed in Uganda in 2010.

Her circumcision ceremony took place in public - she showed us a video taken on the day. It shows an excited, cheering crowd surrounding Ms Yeko and another woman, whose faces are smeared with a whitish-brown flour, said a BBC News report.

They lie on bare grass with their legs open as an older woman approaches each in turn and swiftly cuts off their clitoris.

Neither of them screams because to do so would be a sign of weakness and would nullify what this community in eastern Uganda regard as a rite of passage before a woman can get married.

"During this day I felt so proud, I just felt so excited," Ms Yeko tells the BBC as she watches the footage.

"Before I was circumcised I was taken as any other child, but now I'm someone respected."

She knows she could face up to five years in prison for being circumcised, but she insists that she wants to be identified.

Those who cut her genitals could be imprisoned for 10 years.

Since December, several of these public circumcision ceremonies have happened in the Sebei region of eastern Uganda - most of them in Kween district, which borders Kenya.

Three people have recently been convicted for practising FGM, including a 15-year-old girl and a woman. Nineteen others are in jail awaiting trial.

FGM is life-threatening. The immediate danger comes from bleeding to death after the genitals have been cut.

Then infections can set in. The women in the video also had their private parts covered with flour, and it's not clear if the same blade was used for all the initiates.

Later in life, the scars could form keloids, which are growths. Childbirth is also likely to be more difficult.

Nevertheless Ms Yeko has become a sort of celebrity in Sebei -- and when I ask if she is concerned that girls and women who follow her example are putting their lives in danger, she says she does not believe FGM is harmful.

For her the act was not only a cultural rite but also a form of protest against the government's failure to keep its promises to help educate and advance prospects for women once circumcision was banned.

People in these underdeveloped and poor areas expected to have greater access to social services and infrastructure by giving up FGM.

To make her point, Ms Yeko takes me to Kwosir Girl's Boarding Secondary School, where a plaque on the wall reads: "Presidential pledge to stop FGM".

But she says that even though the school was built in the wake of the circumcision ban and was meant to be free for all girls, costs can run up to $90 (£69) a term and are unaffordable for many in her community.

"They better take back their school because we're not benefiting from the school and we're not enjoying anything from this school," she says.

Kween is one of the worst-performing areas when it comes to education. According to government statistics, on average about 6,000 students enrol at primary school level, but by the end of secondary school only 200 students remain in class.

Ms Yeko says she did manage to get an education, but like many young people in the East African nation she remains unemployed.

A university graduate and now the mother of a four-year-old boy, her decision to get circumcised was to make the point that she feels let down by Uganda's leaders. She even wrote a letter to the police before her cutting ceremony to make sure the authorities knew about it.

For another woman, who spoke to the BBC about her recent circumcision, the motive was more personal. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said she felt ostracised because as a married woman within the ethnic Sabiny community she was prevented from doing certain things because she had not been cut.

"In Sebei, a woman who has not been cut cannot go to the [communal] granary or pick cow dung from the kraal."

Cow dung is often used to plaster houses, a task often left to women.

"A husband can marry another wife. She might be circumcised and then starts insulting the uncircumcised woman. You are just equated to your children," she explained.

Yet the mother of three daughters does not intend to circumcise any of them as her hope is that they will be educated and less easily intimidated by the community.

Uganda's first female Speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has been a key campaigner against FGM over the last 20 years. She visits the region every year and commissioned the Kwosir Girl's Boarding Secondary School.

Ms Kadaga maintains the decision to ban FGM came from the Sebei leaders themselves, who first passed a local by-law in 2009.

"I know that they are unhappy about a number of issues. But I think injuring yourself because there's no road... it's also not right. But I think it's our duty to ensure that they have services," she says.

The ban has seen the cases of circumcision fall in Uganda. In 2011 1.4pc of women were circumcised and by 2016 that had fallen to 0.3pc.

But Ms Yeko's father, Arapkwures Chemegich, who does not support FGM, says being heavy handed about the ban will not work and has created pockets of resistance.

He should know as he tried to stop his daughter from going ahead with her circumcision.

"When we tried to stop her, she actually fought and broke the door," he says, showing me two doors inside the family hut that were hanging off their hinges.

"I think FGM should be stopped, but the method? They should not have come by force.

"It should be something they educate them about."

The FGM is practised in 30 countries in Africa, and some in Asia and the Middle East. An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year. It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15. Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage, and to ensure "pure femininity". Dangers include severe bleeding, problems in urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, etc.

UNi XC-SNU 1430

More News
Plastic pollution: Malaysian town smothered by rubbish

Plastic pollution: Malaysian town smothered by rubbish

13 Feb 2019 | 2:18 PM

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 13 (UNI) Malaysia has become one of the world's biggest plastic importers, taking in rubbish the rest of the world doesn't want.

 Sharesee more..
Food: Posing threat to people and planet?

Food: Posing threat to people and planet?

07 Feb 2019 | 1:07 PM

United Nations, Feb 7 (UNI) The food we eat has huge potential to improve both human health and environmental sustainability, but too often today it is posing a threat to both people and planet, according to a new report by the EAT-Lancet Commission.

 Sharesee more..
Russian scientists suggest disposing of waste by adding it to fuel

Russian scientists suggest disposing of waste by adding it to fuel

07 Feb 2019 | 1:02 PM

Moscow, Feb 7 (Sputnik) Researchers from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) have developed an economically efficient and environmentally friendly method of disposing of municipal solid wastes (MSW) by burning them as additives to composite liquid fuels.

 Sharesee more..
Uganda: 'Why I broke the law to undergo FGM aged 26'

Uganda: 'Why I broke the law to undergo FGM aged 26'

06 Feb 2019 | 2:54 PM

Kampala, Feb 6 (UNI) Sylvia Yeko decided to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) three weeks ago at the age of 26 - even though the practice, which used to be performed on teenage girls, was outlawed in Uganda in 2010.

 Sharesee more..
Asia Bibi: Pakistan's notorious blasphemy case

Asia Bibi: Pakistan's notorious blasphemy case

05 Feb 2019 | 1:10 PM

Islamabad,Feb 5 (UNI) Asia Bibi left the home she shared with her husband and children and headed for the fields.

 Sharesee more..
image